More and more people are doing their shopping from home these days, and whether they’re ordering groceries, home office equipment, or Covid-19 tests, they increasingly expect their deliveries to be fast and on time.
Companies have struggled to keep up with the rise in orders and expectations. One of their biggest challenges is optimizing the so-called last mile of delivery — when a driver takes packages from a regional hub to their final destination.
Now Wise Systems, a startup that began as a class project at MIT, is offering a dispatch and routing platform designed to make the last-mile delivery experience better for everyone, from drivers to dispatchers to customers.
Wise Systems’ routing solution is built on algorithms and machine learning models that continually improve as they gather more data. The company’s web app, meanwhile, gives a high level of visibility into fleet operations in real time. The mobile app also leverages an often-underappreciated asset in the industry: the drivers on the ground. It enables them to make notes on unique stops, communicate with dispatchers, and confirm deliveries.
“Drivers, regardless of the technology they use, are very, very knowledgeable about every one of their stops and every one of those parts of town, so we believe in harnessing their knowledge to make their experience better,” says Vice President of Customer Experience Layla Shaikley SM ’13, who co-founded Wise Systems with CEO Chazz Sims ’13, SM ’14; CTO Ali Kamil ’16; and COO Jemel Derbali.
The founders began working on Wise Systems in 2014 but say they’ve felt the sense of urgency among customers increase during the pandemic.
“Ultimately what we’re interested in is the perfect delivery experience,” Shaikley says. “What that really means is something that’s predictable, cost-effective, and automated for the people using the product.”
A class project worth pursuing
The founders met in the 2014 Development Ventures class at MIT’s Media Lab, a course that challenges students to come up with ideas that have the potential to impact a billion lives. With the MIT Center for Transportation and Logistics (CTL), they began exploring ways to use machine learning and data to improve last-mile delivery.
That summer the founders entered the delta v accelerator hosted by the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship, where they were introduced to companies who would help them hold their first pilots. Delta v was one of several ways MIT helped the founders early on.
“What resource didn’t we use at MIT?” Shaikley jokes. “We applied for every award. I won the Caroll Wilson award; Ali got a transportation scholarship as a graduate student; we did every pitch competition; we were involved in the MIT $100K Entrepreneurship Competition. We definitely used every resource possible. We walked into professor Edward Blanco’s office one day and said, ‘We’re starting a company, can you advise us?’ He said, ‘Absolutely.’ To this day, the network is so supportive. We were also in [the MIT Startup Exchange’s] STEX25 startup accelerator. Doors are always opening for us.”